Posts for category: Oral Health

YouMayNotBeanMMAFighterLikeDevinClarkButYouMightStillBeatRiskforMouthInjury

Mixed martial artists undoubtedly carry a greater risk for physical injury than the average person—just ask Devin Clark. The star fighter with the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has had his share of cuts and bruises over his successful career. His most recent bout was especially brutal—on his teeth.

During his September fight with Ion Cu?elaba in Las Vegas, "Brown Bear" (his nickname among fans) took a knee to the mouth. He went on to lose the fight—and nearly some teeth. Fortunately, an emergency dental visit saved the teeth displaced from their normal alignment.

You might not be an MMA fighter, but you're still at risk for dental trauma if you have an active lifestyle or play contact sports. Wearing a mouthguard will certainly lower your risk significantly. But what if the unthinkable still happens? An impact to the mouth could leave you with a chipped, cracked, loosened or even knocked out tooth.

If you or someone you know experiences dental trauma, here are 3 common sense tips to cope with the injury and minimize the damage.

See a dentist.  If you've seen pictures of Devin Clark's injury right after his September fight, you'd say it was a no-brainer he needed a dentist ASAP. Likewise, so should any injured person with obvious tooth or gum damage. But it's also a good idea to have a dentist check the teeth, gums and jaws within a day or two after any hard mouth contact for underlying damage.

Retrieve tooth fragments. The blunt force of a hard mouth impact can cause pieces of a tooth (or the whole tooth itself) to come loose. Before heading to the dentist, try to retrieve as many dental fragments as you can—they may be able to re-bond them to the tooth. Just be sure to clear the fragments of any debris and secure them in a container with milk or clean water.

Re-insert a knocked-out tooth. As mentioned earlier, a tooth could be knocked completely out of its socket during a hard impact. Even so, there's a good chance of saving it if you act quickly. First, retrieve the tooth and, holding it by the crown and not the root end, clear away dirt and debris with clean water. Then, press it firmly back into its socket. The person should then go immediately to a dentist or emergency room.

You're probably not at as much risk as an MMA fighter for dental trauma, but it can still happen. So, take precautions by wearing a mouthguard during high-risk activities. And should an injury occur, act promptly to protect yours or the other person's dental health.

If you would like more information about preventing and managing a mouth-related injury, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Athletic Mouthguards.”

By Jeffrey Mason, DMD
May 11, 2022
Category: Oral Health
FindingReliefFromThisPainfulFacialNerveDisorder

What started as an occasional twinge in your cheeks has now escalated to moments of excruciating pain. Worst of all, you're in the dark about why you're having these severe episodes of facial pain.

The answer may be a nerve condition called trigeminal neuralgia (TN). This disorder involves the trigeminal nerves, which course down each side of the face and upper jaw. Approximately 150,000 people are diagnosed annually with TN, mostly women over 50.

The pain may sometimes be connected to other nerve-damaging conditions like multiple sclerosis, tumors or lesions. Normally, though, there's a more benign reason. An artery or vein is pressing on one or more of the three branches of the nerve. The ensuing pressure damages the myelin sheath, a fatty outer covering that insulates and protects the nerve from undue sensation.

The nerve at this point of damage can become hypersensitive and reactive to such innocuous things as chewing, a light touch or even air blowing on the face. The erratic response spurs pain episodes, often just a few seconds long, ranging from mild to extreme.

Treating the condition first requires making sure you actually have TN, and that the pain isn't being caused by something else. Jaw joint disorders (TMD), dental abscesses and similar conditions may mimic TN symptoms. Uncovering the true cause may require advanced diagnostic tools like an MRI scan, and the help of different specialties, ranging from dentistry to neurology.

Once confirmed, there are several treatment options for TN that, if not curative, may help minimize painful episodes. Most patients begin with conservative approaches like medications or injections to block pain signals to the brain, or that help reduce abnormal nerve firing.

There are also more invasive procedures to address extreme cases. With percutaneous treatment, for example, the physician inserts a thin needle into the nerve and selectively damages some of its fibers to stop the transmission of pain signals. A surgeon can also use a microsurgical technique to relocate an impinging blood vessel compressing the nerve.

Which treatment methods you and your doctor choose depends on factors like your age or history with TN. Whichever treatment path you take, there's real hope that you can find lasting relief from this bedeviling condition.

If you would like more information on trigeminal neuralgia, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Trigeminal Neuralgia: A Nerve Disorder That Causes Facial Pain.”

IfYoureCaringForanOlderAdultMakeTheirOralHealthaTopPriority

Most of us care for our teeth without much assistance, save from our dentist. But that can change as we get older. A senior adult sometimes needs the help of a family member or a close friend, even with the basics of personal oral care.

At the same time, an older adult's other pressing health needs can be so overwhelming for their caregiver that their oral health needs move to the back burner. But the condition of a person's teeth and gums is directly related to overall health and well-being, especially later in life—it deserves to be a high priority.

First and foremost, caregivers should focus on daily oral hygiene to prevent tooth decay or gum disease, the two most prevalent diseases capable of severely damaging teeth and gums. Dental plaque, a thin bacterial film accumulating on tooth surfaces, is the top cause for these diseases. Removing it daily helps lower the risk for either type of infection.

Older adults may begin to find it difficult to brush and floss on a daily basis. Caregivers can help by adapting the tools of the job to their situation. Adults with diminished hand dexterity might be better served with a power or large-handled toothbrush, or switching to a water flosser for flossing. If they're cognitively challenged, it might also be necessary to perform these tasks for them.

Because of medications or other oral issues, older adults have a higher propensity for chronic dry mouth. Saliva neutralizes acid and supplies antibodies to fight infection, so not having enough can make the mouth environment more conducive to harmful bacteria. Caregivers should interact with their loved one's doctor to help reduce dry mouth through alternative medications or products to improve saliva flow.

An older person may also have dental work like crowns, bridges or dentures that protect their oral health and improve dental function. Be sure they're seeing a dentist to regularly check their dental work and make adjustments or repairs as necessary.

Good oral health is important in every stage of life, but particularly in our later years. Watching out for an older adult's teeth and gums can make a big difference in their overall quality of life.

If you would like more information on dental care for senior adults, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Aging & Dental Health.”

By Jeffrey Mason, DMD
April 21, 2022
Category: Oral Health
Tags: tooth decay  
HeresHowtoMinimizeOralBacterialGrowthandStopToothDecay

Finding out you have a cavity can be an unwelcome surprise. The truth is, though, it didn't happen overnight, but the result of ongoing conditions in the mouth.

Those conditions usually begin with harmful oral bacteria. As a life form, these bacteria need food and lodging, which they readily find from the carbohydrates in your diet. The bacteria and food remnants form a thin biofilm that accumulates tooth surfaces called dental plaque. The bacteria in turn produce oral acid, which can soften and erode the teeth's protective enamel. As bacteria multiply the mouth's acidic levels rise, making cavity formation more likely.

But there's also a flip side to this scenario: Interrupting bacterial growth can help prevent cavities and other dental diseases. Here's how you can do just that.

Remove plaque buildup. It's a simple principle: Deprive bacteria of their refined carbohydrates to reduce their toxicity and remove daily plaque buildup with brushing and flossing. For an added boost, see your dentist at least twice a year for a thorough dental cleaning.

Curtail snacking on sweets. Bacteria love the refined sugar in pastries, candies and other sweets as much as we do. Thus, constant snacking on sweets throughout the day could actually foster bacterial growth. Instead, ease up on your sugar intake and limit sweets to meal times only.

Rinse after sugary drinks. Sodas, sports or energy drinks also provide bacteria with added sugar. They may also contain added forms of acid that further lower your mouth's pH level into the acidic danger zone for teeth. Make it a habit, then, to rinse out your mouth with clear water after drinking one of these beverages to dilute excess sugar or acid.

Take care of your saliva. Saliva neutralizes acid even more than plain water, usually in 30 minutes to an hour after eating. By contrast, not having enough saliva increases your risk for decay and other dental diseases. So, be sure to drink plenty of water, monitor medications that might interfere with saliva production, and use saliva boosting products if needed to keep your saliva production healthy.

If you would like more information on managing your dental health, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Cost-Saving Treatment Alternatives.”

By Jeffrey Mason, DMD
April 01, 2022
Category: Oral Health
Tags: nutrition   tooth decay  
EnergyDrinksCouldPoseaThreattoYourTeeth

In the last few years, energy drinks have begun to offer strong competition to traditional "pick-me-up" drinks like tea or coffee. But while the proponents of energy drinks say they're not harmful, the jury's still out on their long-term health effects.

With that said, however, we may be closer to a definitive answer regarding oral health—and it's not good. The evidence from some recent studies doesn't favor a good relationship between energy drinks and your teeth.

For one, many energy drinks contain added sugar, which is a primary food source for the bacteria that cause tooth decay and gum disease. Increased bacteria also increase your chances of dental disease.

Most energy drinks also contain high levels of acid, which can damage the enamel and open the door to advanced tooth decay. The danger is especially high when the mouth's overall pH falls below 5.5. Energy drinks and their close cousins, sports drinks, typically have a pH of 3.05 and 2.91, respectively, which is well within the danger zone for enamel.

A research group recently put the acidity of both types of beverages to the test. The researchers submerged samples of enamel into different brands of beverages four times a day for five days, to simulate a person consuming four drinks a day. Afterward, they examined the samples and found that those subjected to energy drinks lost an average 3.1 % of their volume, with sports drinks faring only a little better at 1.5%.

Although more research needs to be done, these preliminary results support a more restrained use of energy drinks. If you do consume these beverages, observing the following guidelines could help limit any damage to your teeth.

  • Limit drinking to mealtimes—eating food stimulates saliva production, which helps neutralize acid;
  • After drinking, rinse out your mouth with water—because of its neutral pH, water can help dilute concentrated acid in the mouth;
  • Wait an hour to brush to give saliva a chance to remineralize enamel—brushing before then could cause microscopic bits of softened enamel to slough off.

There's one other alternative—abstain from energy drinks altogether. In the long run, that may turn out to be the best choice for protecting your oral health.

If you would like more information on the effects of sports or energy drinks on teeth, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Think Before You Drink.”